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Split This Rock Youth Programs

Each year Split This Rock serves hundreds of young people and the schools they attend by offering them opportunities to write, perform, and connect with a diverse community of socially engaged writers. Our programs have been acknowledged for excellence in youth arts programming by DC City Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a 2016 Mayor’s Arts Awards finalist. Through the art and witness of poetry, young people not only develop exceptional writing and public speaking skills but also acquire an invigorated sense of self and insight into their power to transform themselves and society.

Multiple black and white images of youth programs in action, including youth poets on stage performing poems, youth sitting together at a workshop, youth posing for a group picture, and youth in the audience at an event cheering.












Check out the highlights from the 2016-17 year online.

Split This Rock Youth Programs provide year-round opportunities for personal and artistic growth for youth ages 12-19 including:

Writing & Performance Workshops
Offered both in and out of schools, workshops are led by dynamic teaching artists and support youth in honing their artistic skills for effective, concise, and powerful writing and public speaking.

School-Based Activities
Exceptional poets serving as teaching artists are placed in schools throughout the DC metro area to support educators, students, and poetry clubs. Available to lead workshops, open mics, spoken word poetry competitions called “slams,” and school assemblies, teaching artists also help students prepare for Split This Rock’s regional poetry festivals: Louder Than a Bomb and Hyper Bole. Support, feedback, and tools such as lesson plans are provided to educators at schools to assist them in integrating poetry into the curriculum. As a Curriculum Partner with DC Public Schools, Split This Rock designs curriculum for integrating poetry into high school English, music, and visual arts classes.

Open Mics
Monthly and school-based open mics offer young people safe space to share their art and be affirmed for it within a community of their peers.

Louder Than a Bomb Teen Poetry Slam Festival
Louder Than a Bomb gathers over 200 youth on teams representing high schools throughout the DC area. A regional version of Young Chicago Authors’ nationally celebrated festival, the event is designed to offer youth safe space to tell their stories, build community across lines of difference, and speak out on social issues. Youth participate in open mics, workshops, and a tournament of slam competitions crowning one school’s team as champion.

Hyper Bole
Organized in partnership with George Mason University, young poets from a diverse array of backgrounds representing DC, Maryland, and Virginia come together annually to participate in this teen poetry slam festival consisting of workshops, open mics, community building, and a tournament of competitions that culminate in one teen being crowned champion.

DC Youth Slam Team (DCYST)
Annually, through a series of performance poetry competitions, called slams, held throughout the city, Split This Rock selects a team of youth between the ages of 13 and 19 to serve as ambassadors for Split This Rock and the DC metro area. Members of the DCYST are coached on writing and performance; speak out on social issues; serve as leaders within Split This Rock Youth Programs; participate in youth poetry gatherings such as Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival where the team took 1st place in 2014; and travel to perform regionally, nationally, and periodically abroad.

Writers’ Guild
A collective of up to 12 young writers between the ages of 12 and 19 who meet weekly for intensive writing workshops that concentrate on writing, revising, developing one’s unique voice, learning how to create a body of work, and constructing a collective book.

The World & Me Youth Poetry Contest
The World & Me Youth Poetry Contest annually invites youth in elementary, middle, and high school nationwide to submit poetry on topics that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world. The contest is free to enter and awards prizes to the three top poems.

Ushindi Performance Tribe
This year, Split This Rock piloted a professional spoken word apprenticeship initiative for young adults ages 19 and up. Comprised this year of DC Youth Slam Team alumni, members of Ushindi are available to perform, lead workshops, and assist with other engagements. Ushindi members gain experience, participate in professional development activities, create professional press kits, and build impressive resumes. So far this year, the group has performed at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, at the grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and as the opening act for Common and the NSO Pops at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall! For further details or to have Ushindi at your next event, send an email to

James Baldwin Institute for Poetry & Social Justice
In a new summer program this year, the Baldwin Institute puts youth voices at the center of youth education. Made possible in part by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Baldwin Institute offers 10 youth from low-income DC communities a paid opportunity to explore social issues they feel most passionate about and to create poetry workshops and lesson plans focused on those issues. Based on participants' work, Split This Rock will create a poetry and social justice curriculum for the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system to use in classrooms throughout the city.

For More Information

Please visit the Split This Rock Youth Programs website, the DC Youth Slam Team on Facebook or Twitter, or Split This Rock's Upcoming Events page. Also, enjoy videos of youth performances on the DC Youth Slam Team Youtube channel.